Playing for Royalty and High Society

During this period, if I have got it correctly of 1955 – 1962 I worked for Tim Clayton and I doubt whether anybody has even heard of him. He was one of two band leaders, the other being Tony Kinsman, who counted most in the good graces of Royalty and high
society. They more or less had all that kind of work, and very important it was for them.

We visited and played in famous homes and palaces and received the very finest treatment and respect. Let me tell you some of the many places we played at.

Arundel Castle, the owner being the premier duke of the country, the Duke of Norfolk. We played for his two daughters coming out parties; we also played there every August for the Goodwood Races Ball, at which all of royalty attended. Oakham, Rutland, the smallest county, at the time in the country. Blenheim Palace, (near Woodstock on the way to Oxford) Brighton Pavilion, Cirencester, I believe the Duke there has a very naughty son. Clivedon, Hampton Court, Faversham, Henley Regatta Ball, Honourable Artillery Company’s Headquarters, i.e. City Road, known as the H.A.C which houses Britain’s oldest regiment, Marlborough House, Woburn Abbey, that is the Duke of Bedford, St. James’s Palace. We were the only band to play there for I understand 100 years and were forbidden to play anything other than slow waltz’s and slow foxtrots, because the floor was considered to be unsafe, (we played on the first floor of the palace).

We played for the 21st birthday party of the son of the Guinesses, first of all for High Society, at the Hurlingham Club near Putney Bridge, and then in Dublin Castle, Ireland. Mrs Guinness (i can’t remember her name), had bought in more than enough champagne, so she thought, for her guests, who were on this occasion the staff  at the castle, but before
it was midnight, she found out that there was no champers let  and that left her raging mad. The ball lasted till 5am and then she said to the caterers I want to see every empty champagne bot  le here, before you get a single penny from me. The answer to the problem was that some of the staff had taken the opportunity to replenish their stocks of wine etc. at their homes. After we used to finish the Cowes Royal Yacht Squadron’s Ball and we had finally packed away our instruments, we loaded them on somebody’s private motor boat and made to the mainland. But the job was still not over for me. I had to get my accordion out and play as we circled around the many ships of all sizes that were anchored in the Solent and many a cheer went up from the sailors on board that were awakened from the slumbers.

I can now tell you of the time we were nearly in deep trouble with the law. This was a problem of the illegal parking of our cars. Our cars were in an enclosure and by the time we finished playing at Cowes in the early hours of the morning the gates were locked. After some time of trying to rescue them, such as climbing over the gates in our evening dress the police had arrived. Fortunately after much explanation the gates were unlocked and we were allowed to go home.

Another incident was the time when after finishing a job, somewhere north of Leeds, Tim took the wrong turn coming away from the house, landing up at Scotch Corner, putting on over 100 miles on to the journey, and that was after a long job lasting into the early hours of the morning. h  at as you can imagine cheered us up, not a lot!

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On another occasion we were flown from Heathrow to Paris, taken from the airport by coach to the Traveller’s club on the Champs Elysee. We there upon unpacked our instruments making ready for the dance. This completed, the chaps made their way over to where our refreshments were being prepared, leaving me on my own still unpacking. I always had more to do than the rest of the band. Still continuing with this chore, I paused for a moment on hearing somebody come into the ballroom and walk across the floor making towards me. It was no less a person than the ex-king of Britain, the Duke of Windsor. He shook hands with me and asked if the band was from London and he looked so very pleased when I said yes. He said he was looking forward to hearing
us play.

Another one of our many trips to Paris took us to the American ambassador’s residence and there I saw an amazing collection of coloured glass. However, Rock ‘n’ Roll was beginning to make its presence felt, consequently a lot of the big name dance bands found they were not able to compete with the likes of Bill Hailey etc.

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